NCW: Where to now for NCW? | ADM November 2013
The Network Centric Warfare (NCW) Roadmap 2009 is undergoing a significant transformation, incorporating fast-moving developments of a joint network concept that is still being initialised.
Responsibility for formulating the so-called Joint Battlespace Networked Environment Concept, which basically will mandate the overarching data network interface and information interoperability requirements for the maritime, air and land domains, has moved from the Capability Development Group (CDG) to the Joint Capability Coordination Division (JCCD) within the Vice Chief of Defence Force group.
“It was originally felt the Roadmap had served its purpose, so rather than have a document that was out of date the day we published it, it just got rolled into how we do business within the Joint Capability Coordination world,” Commodore Stephen Woodall, Director General Joint Force Integration within the JCCD, said to ADM.
“However, as we’re trying to articulate the joint battlespace networked environment as a concept we’re finding sufficient synergies that might enable an updated Roadmap to be included in the concept. At the moment Navy and Air Force are tactically ‘connected’ – they’ve been doing tactical datalinks for years using Link 11 or Link 16, but the new player on the block is of course the land network.
“This can be described as a number of digital data links and networks that, when interfaced, will distribute the ground force situation across the land battlespace and linked into the multi-tactical datalink network.
“So the concept we’re trying to develop describes each of these domains and how they integrate into each other. Air Force and Navy have been included in the recently-endorsed concept for multi-tactical datalink network operations.
“Army are also progressing the concept and operating parameters for the land network, and we hope to get these ‘environmental’ networks conceptualised from an interoperability and integration perspective in the near term.”
Although Army has traditionally used voice communications, it is now moving into digital very quickly and is using its Canberra-based test site to integrate different nodes and work out the level to which brigade and battalion level data should be distributed via the BGC3 Command Control and Communications system.
Joint Force Integration branch
Early next year the 18-strong Joint Force Integration branch will also address the role of the intelligence support network in the joint battlespace networked environment, including the access to be allowed at tactical level to what is often strategic-level information.
The group will then move on to consider combining sensor inputs to improve situational awareness and facilitate command and control.
“It’s not about acquiring new stuff, it’s just trying to join together programs that already exist and make sure their interfaces allow us to pass information from one side of the defence organisation to the other,” CDRE Woodall noted.
He and his colleagues continue to work closely with CDG and with the Fyshwick-based Tactical Information Exchange Integration Office (TIEIO), the DMO unit responsible for the implementation phase of current projects and programs as well as maintenance of the in-place network.
Much of the horsepower behind delivery of a mature tactical data link capability for the ADF continues to flow from JP2089, which was initially conceived to fit Tactical Data Link (TADIL) to ADF capabilities and legacy platforms and to develop the infrastructure required to support data exchange at force level.
The now-completed Phase 1 was a Project Definition Study, and Phase 2 was a risk reduction program for the now-completed implementation of the Variable Message Format (VMF) text-based messaging system on the RAAF’s F/A-18A/B Hornets.
Phase 2A integrates VMF with the SAAB 9LV 452 Mk 3E Combat Management System on the Anzac frigates, joining the Link 11 already in use. Known as the Anzac Multi-Link Upgrade (AMLU), it will permit VMF-enabled naval gunfire support. Sea trials are currently underway on HMAS Perth and work continues to deliver the same capability aboard HMAS Canberra, the first of the two RAN’s under-construction Landing Helicopter Dock amphibious ships.
Phase 3A provides the Initial Common Support Infrastructure to support the Tactical Information Exchange Domain (TIED), an operational multiple tactical datalink network management environment. First pass approval is anticipated in the next financial year, with Initial Operating Capability (IOC) set between 2018 and 2020.
Under Phase 3B, a series of studies will be undertaken into options (and possible short-term remediation) to improve the tactical datalink capability of the Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH) - probably initially by installation of VMF.Although IOC is anticipated between 2014 and 2016, the 2012 DCP warns that this will be refined later in the proposal development process.
Pointing out that the ARH was purchased with its own proprietary link system, CDRE Woodall comments that in a perfect world “we would be future-looking and then be articulating mandatory interfaces for future acquisitions to try and avoid what we’ve done with Tiger.
“However, what we have to do is take its information from its ground station and then develop an interface so it can be rebroadcast through Link 16, so again it comes down to how much of that information it passes back needs to be passed to someone else and how much can you make do with what you’ve got.”
Finally, JP 2089 Phase 4 will continue the upgrade and refresh of the TIED and address selected TDL platform and legacy issues, largely by enhancing integration of the land network, addressing Link 22 requirements, and realising coalition interoperability. First Pass is anticipated in 2015-2017 with IOC not until 2022-2024.
Link 11, a secure, half-duplex digital voice and data link, is the legacy tactical data link for the ADF, equipping all major RAN fleet units, the RAAF’s AP-3Cs and AEW&C Wedgetails, and the ADF’s Northern, Eastern and Mobile Regional Operations centres.
Although lacking the robustness and data exchange capabilities of more modern systems such as Link 16, operating on High Frequency ground wave it provides a beyond line of sight capability of up to 300 nautical miles
While Link 16 broadly follows the information exchange concepts of Link 11, it provides much better connectivity between vessels and aircraft within line of sight. Other advantages include a higher data rate, resistance to jamming, and automatic broadcasting of a precise location and identification message, providing a reliable identification of the host platform and reducing or eliminating the risk of friendly fire.
Link 16 now equips the F/A-18A/Bs and Super Hornets, Wedgetails, the KC-30A multirole tanker/transports, Anzac frigates and the four Adelaide class FFGs. The RAN’s 24 MH-60R naval combat helicopters will include a standard Link 16 fit.
In ADF Link 16 operations, introduction of the Joint Range Extension Application Protocol (JREAP) has provided the ability to utilise Link 16, normally line of sight, over long distances without degradation of the message format or content.
JREAP takes the J-Series message from its original format and changes the protocol so that the message can be transmitted over military UHF satellite and terrestrial radio frequency communications.
Looking to the future, Link 22 is under consideration by the ADF to replace Link 11 within the next three to four years and complement Link 16, which can if necessary be upgraded to the Link 22 standard.
In essence Link 22 has many of the functions of Link 16, but the beyond line of sight range of Link 11. It has also been designed with automated and simple management to ensure that it is easier to manage than both the Link 16 and Link 11 systems.
“Overall, the real question we’ve got across Joint Force Coordination is does everything need to be integrated, what are the things that give us a real return, and what should be left to the single services, to deal with as they see it,” CDRE Woodall said to ADM. “We get caught up in DCP projects at the moment, but in a perfect world we’d provide the concept and policy upstream of the DCP and provide the context in terms of the future operating concept for CDG to work within.”